“I value self-discipline, but creating systems that make it next to impossible to misbehave is more reliable than self-control.”—Tim Ferriss, Author of The 4-Work Week
In an article I wrote, Seven Things Highly Productive People Do Differently, the topic of discipline came up.
The point, to be more productive, a certain amount of discipline is required.
But as Dan Kennedy states in Extreme Productivity Blueprint, you can “dedicate all your mental and emotional resources to creating a disinterest in or aversion to something… but no matter how much willpower and discipline and motivation you have, there is a cap.”
Think of it this way, someone on a diet who has a serious weakness for chocolate can only resist so much. Put her in a chocolate shop or leave a bowl of chocolate M-n-M’s on her desk and it requires a significant amount of focus to keep from having some chocolate. For some, it’d be near impossible.
Therefore it’s better to just control the environment and remove the temptation. Don’t go in the chocolate shop and don’t have any chocolate at home or in your work environment.
These days there are a lot of distractions that keep us from being productive. In fact, there are some major time-sucks that, even if you are disciplined enough to not use them when working, can require an enormous amount of your energy to resist…
The incessant ding of notifications being delivered to your phone, begging you to stop and check them.
Surfing the net for one thing and being distracted by the lure of unlimited information…
The urge to check your social media to see how many “likes, comments, shares, or Retweets” you received…
Wasting seconds and minutes during the day on these can put a serious dent in your productivity. Unplugging from your phone and turning off the Internet creates a more productive environment and allows you to get absorbed in a project, read, create, or even think.
Here are 5 ways you can create an environment void of time-wasters and distractions so you can get more done.
1) Find out where you are wasting your time. Sometimes you have to recognize the problem before you can fix it. If you’re not sure where you’re losing time, you might use one of the many programs that track where you spend your time and how much time you spend on each application, such as Rescue Time or Manic Time. (Both have free versions you can download.) You may be surprised at how much time you are spending each day checking social media or surfing the web. Plus, like a diet journal, sometimes recording how you spend your time can help you be more disciplined.
2) Utilize apps to help you block your biggest distractions and weaknesses. To help curb your Internet usage and fight the urge to surf the net or check social media, you can use one of the many software apps designed to block your online distractions.
For example, the app called Freedom bans you from surfing the net for up to eight hours at a time. At the end of your time offline, Freedom allows you back on the Internet. You simply turn Freedom on, tell it how long you want to focus (anywhere from 15 minutes to 8 hours). You can even pre-schedule the times you want it to run, say Monday through Friday from 8:00 AM – Noon. Their ad says, “If online distractions kill your productivity, Freedom could be the best 10 dollars you’ll ever spend.”
If you need to do research while online, you might try something that just blocks distracting social media sites. Anti-Social costs $15 and blocks social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. You can also add sites which frequently sidetrack you. A free app for blocking social media is LeechBlock.
If your phone is your weakness, a free app called Stay Focused, lets you set timed blocks to turn-off whatever apps distract you. It also blocks calls and text messages. When blocking calls, you can set it to make exceptions for important calls, such as from your family.
3) Delete the apps that are a distraction. Seriously, there is an app for just about everything, but that doesn’t mean you need to have it. Get rid of apps such as games or apps that aren’t really useful to you. You might also consider deleting apps that are particularly distracting, such as social media. Cutting down on these apps will clear you from distraction.
4) Have a No-phone policy. Schedule hours in the day when phones aren’t allowed. Turn your phone off. Leave it locked away in the trunk of your car if you have to, but completely remove the temptation of making or receiving phone calls.
5) Change your phone notifications. Smart phones are great—you can check your email, take pictures, and use it for just about everything, however it’s also become one of the biggest distractions. Receiving email, text and social media notifications has created Pavlovian conditioning, causing people to constantly check their phone with every message.
Check your notification settings for your existing apps and cut them to the bare minimum. For example, if your smartphone is set to receive notifications for text messages, social media, and emails, disable those notifications. You can even create an “allowed list” so you can only receive notifications of incoming calls from people on your allowed list.
Whether it’s your phone, the Internet or some other distraction, when you eliminate your biggest distractions, you create a more productive environment conducive to getting stuff done. Are there apps or methods you’ve used that have helped you create a more productive environment? Share your ideas with our readers in the comments.
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